A Presidential pardon for former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka in a widely speculated New Year reprieve did not materialize yesterday.
Nor were any other prisoners convicted of various offences released, according to Prisons Commissioner General P.W. Kodippily. He said such amnesties were granted on National Day – February 4.
However, a pardon for the former General is still under consideration, according to Tiran Alles, a parliamentarian from the Democratic National Alliance (DNA).
He told the Sunday Times, “I have been discussing the early release of Mr. Fonseka with the President. We have to overcome obstacles regarding his release.” Though in jail, Mr. Fonseka is the leader of the DNA.
Other sources said yesterday that the subject matter of discussion was the modalities under which Mr. Fonseka would be given a “conditional pardon”. According to these sources, among the matters under consideration is placing him under “house detention” with the requirement that he adheres to a number of restrictions.
In terms of the Sri Lanka Constitution, the President “can grant a pardon and it can be either conditional or unconditional,” leading lawyer Gomin Dayasiri told the Sunday Times.
Article 34 (1) of the Constitution states that the President can “grant a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions, grant any respite, either indefinite or such period as the President may think fit, of the execution of any sentence passed on such offender, substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on any such offender, remit the whole or any part of any punishment imposed of any penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the Republic of Sri Lanka on account of such an offence.”
In the event of a “conditional pardon”, Fonseka will not have the right to reject it. Former Prisons Chief Major General V.R. de Silva told the Sunday Times, “There is no question of a prisoner rejecting a pardon.” In the case of Mr. Fonseka, he said, the case is unique since he has been convicted by a Military Court Martial and does not enjoy civic rights.